Friday, January 27, 2017

Lady Literacy Leads a New Team of Superheroes!

What Are Your Super Powers?

Dear Readers,

Growing up, I never considered myself creative. As a student, I was always led to believe that creative meant artistic and artistic meant drawing well. It makes me wonder, if my teachers had looked past their own beliefs about what made students creative or musical or artistic, how that may have changed my lack of engagement and interest in school.

SCOPE Magazine

One of the most engaging literary resources I have had the pleasure of using with some of my students is SCOPE Magazine by Scholastic. One of the contributing editors, Kristin Lewis, does an amazing job researching and authoring high interest pieces that hook students. When we first receive a new issue, I always provide them time for a "preview" day. Consistently I hear, I cannot wait to read this! Or that looks really interesting. Can we read the play? 

The articles we have read this year have inspired several extension activities including creating a pirate ship, visual representations of learning, exploring what courage is or building labyrinths.


One of my favorite pieces was Into the Maze of Doom with the paired passage What's With These Guys? The focus was on Greek myths and modern superheroes, the people we look to as inspiration for making the world a better place.

After reading the play (I was able to play one of the villains, King Minos!) and article, a student recommended the movie Civil War. I watched it, and was pleasantly surprised at how engaging it was. It made me think, what would my students choose as their super powers?

I gave them the opportunity to create their own superheroes. The only guidelines were to include: an original name, a super power, 3-4 characters traits and a visual. 

Some of the students jumped right in while others were hesitant at first, but as they started developing ideas in their minds, decided to give it a try. As always I was amazed at their ideas, innovation and creative ideas. 

We are still in the process of completing them, however here are a few that we have displayed!

What would your superhero look like? What super powers would he or she possess? Character Traits?

Thank you @_KELewis and SCOPE Magazine for your tremendous dedication to students and literacy!


Tuesday, January 24, 2017

But What's the Surprise Ms. Gross????

If You Want It, You Have to Find It

Dear Readers,

We just ended our 2nd quarter, 1st semester and half of the 2016-2017 school year. My 7th graders have been working hard! They reached their goal of reading at least 96 books by January 20th. I am proud to say they passed their goal!

As a celebration, I told them we would have a treat on Friday. I bought mini-cupcakes and hid them behind my desk area. 

As soon as one student walked in, he wanted to know what the surprise was. I made them wait until we had about 10 minutes left in the period. The twist was, they had to find it.

I called a couple of them individually to go look, but nobody was anywhere NEAR the cupcakes. Then I just let them go at it. As I watched them, I just felt happy.

I was happy to be there in that moment in time.
I was happy to be their teacher and get to touch their lives every day.
I was happy to see them running around excited about a surprise.
I was happy that they all had smiles on their faces.
I was happy they were working together to find the surprise.
I was happy when a student triumphantly produced the surprise from the hiding spot.

When I think of LaVonna Roth and her S.H.I.N.E. message, the "I" for Inspire always brings my students to mind. I am inspired by them every day.

I am inspired to teach them to the best of my ability.
I am inspired by what they teach me. 
I am inspired by what they will bring to the future.
I am inspired by their thoughtfulness.

My "life word" is believe. I try to model this every day for my students.

I believe they can do anything they set their minds to.
I believe they will become empathetic, global citizens.
I believe that things happen for a reason, even if we do not understand at first.
I believe that they look to me as a role model and take cues from me as their teacher.
I believe in each and every one of them.

I love my job. I hope that you experience as much joy being an educator as I do.


Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Walking Dead, Quiet Power & Scrooge

Integrate, Model, Connect

Dear Readers,

You might be asking yourself what The Walking Dead, Quiet Power and Scrooge have in common. If you were in my classroom over the past couple of weeks you would know they all are excellent examples for theme development. We have been practicing responding to literature in different ways. Even though the task was to write a thematic essay, I took a different approach than I have in the past.

The Walking Dead

I hung a few photos of The Walking Dead on a whiteboard and just listened as the students came in.

  • I love that show!
  • I know everything about The Walking Dead!
  • Oh no, do we have to watch it?
  • I hate that show, it's so gross!
  • What if we have never seen it?
  • Are we writing about it?

I am always looking for ways to integrate their worlds into instruction. In thinking about theme, what better example of survival than The Walking Dead? It was something they were all familiar with, regardless if they watched it on a regular basis or not.  

In small groups, they "brain dumped" everything they knew and drew out sketchnotes. We then discussed them as a large group. The next step was to take all the sketchnotes from the four groups and categorize using different text structures to create revised sketchnotes. The goal was to have them think broad and then narrow their thinking with examples and evidence.

Additionally, it also provided a platform for practicing empathy. How would you feel if you woke up and the world had completely changed? What if you did not know where your family was?  How would you feel, as a parent, if your child was bitten and had to be killed?

Believe it or not, it led to an extremely interesting science discussion. Everyone has the genetic mutation to become a zombie. A student made a connection to the plane crash that forced survivors to look to those who had passed away as a food source. Why would that never be possible on the show? 

Integrating what they know with what they need to learn is a powerful combination.

Quiet Power

Some of you may know I love my anchor charts. I consider the walls in our classroom to be "living" and I am constantly changing the resources I hang on them. The models, mini-lessons and anchor charts develop independent thinkers, learners and teachers. I decided to write my thematic essay on introverts.

This also provided me an amazing opportunity to discuss learning and/or personality styles, the differences and similarities between introverts and extroverts. I chose my text evidence and analysis carefully so I could also use it as a teaching opportunity.  

When we write with our students in real time and model our thinking, they feel success because they can do it too.


Me to a Student: If you use your thought prompts, it will guide you to analysis. 
Another Student: Yeah, they really do.

As they develop a thematic essay using A Christmas Carol, conferencing is essential to building confident writers. Those 1:1 conversations help me teach to their strengths and gives them a safe environment to ask for help. 

Showing students how everything connects, makes their learning purposeful and transferable.

Writer's Notebook

I keep a notebook they can access as a resource as well. Anything in my notebook is for their use. When they see me as a writer, they see themselves as writers as well


Saturday, January 7, 2017

"Stop and Reboot"

It's January.......

Dear Readers,

I hope the New Year finds you all well! 

Over the past few years, I have found that in January my students and I need to come back together as a classroom community and "reboot" (as I call it) as we prepare for the second semester. 

We are not quite half way through the year at this point, the holidays and vacations are over for a while and the end of the year is not in sight. My middle school students struggle with this time of year, especially 7th grade for some reason.

This past Thursday I had them reflect.

1. Write down what you experience as you come into the classroom. What you see and hear, positive and negative. They took a few moments and independently jotted down a list. 

2. After that, I asked them go back and star/circle/highlight what contributes to a positive classroom community and learning environment. They also did this independently.

3. Then I asked them to reflect on their contribution to the learning environment. These were personal, not to be shared, so I encouraged them to be honest with themselves. 

4. Finally, I had them set a personal goal based on their reflection. Was there something they could work on to be a more productive member of our classroom community? Was there something they should continue? Was there something they would like to add?

Then on Friday, I gave them additional ownership of our classroom and increased student roles.

  • Attendance Officers: responsible for taking daily attendance, then handing it over to me to input into the computer.
  • Jr. Trailblazers: help me with technology, responsible for turning the projector on/off.
  • Librarians: responsible for checking in books and shelving them, in addition to maintaining the check-out notebook and updating books in display racks.
  • Green and Clean Crew: responsible for making sure room is picked up before leaving.
  • Flexible Seating Team: responsible for creating, managing and maintaining a system to distribute seating options (for example: yoga balls).
  • Anchors of Appreciation Team: responsible for creating, managing and maintaining our anchors (for example: what the content will be, who will receive them, how often)
  • Building Our Reading Lives Bulletin Board: responsible for gathering titles read, adding to board, maintaining and managing goals and progress
  • Date/Quote of the Day: responsible for changing the date and adding the quote of the day from 365 Days of Wonder

Friday was an extremely productive and building relationships kind of day. Sometimes we have to set aside the academics and come together as a community. It is so essential in building a foundation of respect, trust and safety.

I have also enjoyed creating our snowflake display. The students have come up with amazing words, quotes and ideas. 

My students are amazing individuals. I am honored to be their teacher.


Sunday, January 1, 2017

Take Time to Chase the Snowflakes

Positive Perspectives for 2017

Dear Readers,

While some may find it difficult to transition into January after the holiday hustle and bustle, I welcome it with open arms. January 1st is one of my favorite days and it is not because it is entering a new year. The anxiety that I live with from October-December is finally lifted. 

Although the holidays are seen, by most, as a time of gathering family and friends, participating in traditions and celebrations, it is an extremely difficult time of year for me. I surround myself with positivity and people who care about me. This year, my PLN was beyond amazing in supporting, encouraging and being by my side throughout those difficult months. It helped me to keep a positive perspective during a difficult time of year.

Love my Picture Books!

There is a picture book I always think of at this time of year, The After-Christmas TreeWhen I worked with elementary level students, I used this text upon return from the holiday break. In the book, winter is celebrated and the tree is given a second use. It was always a nice transition back into school and gave a positive perspective to this "post-holiday" time which can cause some students (and adults) to feel a little down. 

Another favorite winter picture book is Snowmen at Night. It takes you into the magical world of the lives of snowmen. It is a fantastic read aloud that leads to endless possibilities in reading, writing, speaking, listening, vocabulary, etc. The students loved the possibility of what could be if snowmen really did come out to play at night. How fun to think through the eyes of a snowman!

A final recommendation is The Wild Toboggan Ride. Hilarious toboggan story that causes grandpa's perspective on winter to change. In addition, it includes community helpers and use of figurative language. 

Trees? Snowmen? Toboggan Rides? Oh My!

Heading into the new year, may you all think about how to turn a positive into a negative, may you all find the magic of the winter season and may you all find your inner child and go where life takes you.